In verse 5 we see the Superiority of the Apostles. "For I consider myself not in the least inferior to the most eminent apostles." Paul contrasts himself as an apostle with those who claim to be apostles, the super apostles, and says he’s superior. They aren’t true apostles. They aren’t genuine believers in Christ and he continues through this chapter to expose them for who they are.
Not only in verse 5 do we see the Superiority of the Apostles, but in verse 6 we see the Reliability of the Apostles, "But even if I am unskilled in speech, yet I am not so in knowledge; in fact, in every way we have made this evident to you in all things." So in what way is Paul superior? He admits it's not in speech. These super apostles may have been able to wow the Corinthian church, they may have been very eloquent and very easy to listen to, but Paul knew that wasn’t what was important. He didn’t want to be equal to his rivals in speech. It would rob the cross of Jesus Christ of its power by making his brilliance the center of attention rather than Christ. The last thing Paul wanted to do was to go after preaching a sermon at First Southern Baptist Church of Corinth, go to the back of the church door, and have somebody shake his hand saying "Paul, you are just a wonderful preacher of God. I love hearing you preach. That was a great sermon!" That’s the last thing Paul wanted. What he would want is for somebody to shake his hand and say, "Paul, the Christ you preach is so wonderful. He is such a tremendous Savior!" That was the goal Paul wanted. He may not have been superior in speech, but that’s the wrong standard. So Paul says, "I am not so in knowledge." Paul was an apostle and as an apostle he was entrusted with the very words of God. He was the one with knowledge.
At the end of verse 6 we see that the Corinthian church knew this was true. He appeals to their experience and knowledge of him and his work among them. He’s worked among them for years. He’d written letters to them, he’d prayed over them, he’d wept over them, he’d sent them help, he’d done multiple different things. They had more than enough in front of them to realize who he was. It wasn’t hidden from them. He was an apostle.
In light of this, how do we respond to the ever-present danger of deception? It is by committing ourselves to the apostles’ teaching. We don’t have apostles anymore. The apostles ceased in the first century. But they laid the foundation necessary for us to stand on by giving us the Word of God. Everything they needed to communicate to the body of Christ, to the church, has been given to us in these pages of Scripture. It is by devoting ourselves to the study of Scripture that we hold fast to the apostles’ teaching. They have laid the foundation. Now we must stand on it. We must build our church upon it.
How do we do this practically? As individuals, as I’ve already hinted at, we must read our Bibles. We must study our Bibles. We must memorize our Bibles. You cannot detect truth from error just from hearing what your Sunday School teacher says, or even hearing what your preacher says, or listening to different people on the radio. You know what is true by reading and knowing what the Word of God says.
What could this mean for us as a church? How could the church hold fast to the apostles’ teaching? One way I believe is very important is for a church to be confessional, where the church in its covenant has a confession of faith, one that says this is what the apostles taught, where it summarizes biblical truth about things such as Jesus or the spirit or the gospel. Southern Baptists have the Baptist Faith and Message 2000. Many of you know I like the thorough 1689 Second London Baptist Confession of Faith. When we have a confession of faith, there is no attempt to infiltrate because we have all covenanted or agreed together as a body of Christ that this is what we believe, this is what the apostles teach. We don’t allow into membership those who disagree.
And there is a second part to this. We must be willing to practice church discipline. If somebody, somehow, did come in or start believing these things, we must be willing to cast them out. If they’re unrepentant, we must remove them from the church and say they are no longer one of us. It’s not popular today and it’s not practiced much today. Nevertheless, it would help to stop a lot of the problems we’re having, if we just started to practice church discipline.
posted at 10:15 AM